Posts Tagged ‘balance the budget’

There’s something I want.  I submit that I *must* have it, in order to survive.  Problem is, I don’t have the money to pay for it.  Who’s gonna pay? 

I’ve been watching with great interest the debate going on in Wisconsin over pay raises for public employees, like teachers.  At first, by all accounts, it was the teachers who flooded the state capital; now it seems all kinds of public employees are there too. 

Except, of course, for the Democrats in the state Legislature  who literally ran away to another state to hide, so they didn’t have to vote on the budget.  The government is at a standstill, and who knows how much money has been spent unsuccessfully trying to use the State Police to find and bring home the missing elected, public servants.

I don’t think those folks are living in the same world I live in. If I ran away from my paying job because I had a difficult decision or an unpleasant task to have to do, not only would I be disciplined for insubordination, I’d also be fired by this point and time.  There’s a term for that – it’s called job abandonment.

At the crux of this debate is money. Some will say it’s about all kinds of other things – denigrating public employees (particularly teachers), usurping the ability of public service unions and their members from exerting the power they feel they are “entitled” to. Statistics from the Washington Examiner says this about unions:

“Only 7.3 percent of all private sector employees are union members, while 37.6 percent of all government workers are unionized. Fifty-one percent of all union members are government workers.”
I am not in a union, nor have I ever been.  My husband is not in a union and hasn’t been in one for over 17 years.  Yes, at one time he was in a trade union, but not by choice.  He either had to be in it or he didn’t get the job.
Regardless of choice, the issue at hand here is money.  People there want more.  The state doesn’t have it. Where is the money going to come from?  Do we rob Peter to pay Paul? Do we roll the dice or throw darts? 
As an adult, I am responsible for my finances.  Me.  I don’t have a money tree in my backyard.  I have to balance my budget.  It’s as simple as that.  No one will pay bills for me if I want something I say is necessary for my survival. I have “x” amount of dollars coming in. Thankfully, this isn’t a flexible amount like it is for a state, which has to estimate income (like taxes) and hope it meets up with actual spending at the end of the year.
In my budget, something has to give when there are unexpected changes, like medical bills or plumbing issues.  So, what’s it going to be?  What is going to give?
Seems to me, in this situation, pensions and medical plan costs are being passed down to teachers, which yes, affects their take-home pay.  I have heard the argument that “teachers are taxpayers, too, and their pension/retirement plans have taken huge hits – why should they have to pay more and make less money?”
Welcome to reality, friends. Over the last few years, our retirement plan has also taken huge hits. Over the last 5 years or so, our medical plan costs and deductibles have continued to increase, while the benefits change. I read an article a while ago about the teacher’s union (New York) being up in arms because things like Viagra and plastic surgery were “benefits” that were going to be cut.  We here in this world have been dealing with all the things the teachers and other public employees are upset about. 
Viagra has never been part of our benefit plan.  Neither has birth control pills, although I heard a rumor that if it was medically necessary, it would be covered.  I tried that a few times and never got it covered, despite it actually BEING medically necessary. The upside is that birth is covered. We don’t get plastic surgery at all, unless it’s reconstructive. Our company has thousands of employers and is a Fortune 500 company.  This generally means they have some pull and can get better rates than smaller companies.
We also don’t have the ability to go on strike or otherwise fight for wages.  Yearly wages are predetermined, according to the budget.  There are annual reviews, and if you are management, you have the opportunity to meet your objectives and get a bonus. If you are hourly, you get the raise they give you, if one is given.  I’m sure there is more to it, with nuances that I, the one not being reviewed and employed, don’t have first-hand knowledge of.  I can say that my boss (for my very part-time job) went and asked for raises for us.  The answer was no, of course.  Times are tough.
I know a lot of teachers.  I’m related to a lot teachers (and administrators).  I’m friends with teachers that I had in high school, and have great regard for those  (teachers) I’m friends with and some others that made an impact on me. I grew up in a household where my dad was a teacher and then moved on to administration. I think there are some wonderful people out there who are wonderful teachers.
Let us please be clear on those points before y’all start flaming me.  🙂
The public school system is deeply flawed.  While there are a number of excellent teachers, there is also a great number who are not. In some districts, people can teach school without ever having gone to school to become teachers.  I think this is some of the problem with schools. I think another problem is that there are people who become teachers simply because of the benefits.  I mean, who wouldn’t want a job where you only have to work 9 months out of the year, and where you have great benefits, including retirement, right?  And that’s not to say that it is a gravy train, because as good teachers will tell you, there is a lot more to it than that. I will tell you that I have known (casually) people who went into teaching *only* because of the benefits and shorter work year.
I’m not putting it all on the school districts themselves, because let’s face it, the No Child Left Behind Act had goodness behind the concept but is a boat anchor in practicality. We can’t blame any one group. We can’t blame only the Democrats; we can’t blame only the Republicans (despite a lot of people wanting to point fingers at them and the Tea Party and others who are fiscally conservative and trying to balance budgets, like the Republican Governor of Wisconsin.); we can’t only blame the former or current administrations.  The point is not to place blame, but to find a realistic, sustainable fix.
I don’t have one.  🙂  Just thought I’d clear that up.  😆
So here’s the thing.  Pretty nearly every career job requires more than an 8 hour work day. More often than not, there is work that goes home and is worked on during non-clocked hours there as well. More often than not, there are difficult people and situations to deal with, too, in these other jobs.
I had a note come across my desk today that likened teachers to babysitters ( as in, this is how some people see teachers and are therefore justifying not paying them more), so let’s see what we should pay them.  The math was $3 an hour @ 6.5 hours for 30 students X 180 days a year.  That’s not including planning hours or parent-teacher conferences or any kind of extra.  Sound low?  Well, according to the math, the income “should” be $105,300. 
Now, if you were a more educated teacher, like a special education instructor with a master’s degree, you could charge more, like minimum wage, which would result (using this math) in a wage of $280,800.  This formula has been applied for stay-at-home-moms, too, so if you combine that with the teacher wage, since we homeschool, I’d be rolling in dough.  🙂 
It’s my opinion that you have to throw that kind of math out the window, because it’s not reality (and no, I’m not saying using that kind of math in this example is anything more than a show of support).  The realities of a job are the duties to be performed.  Every job has details and responsibilities.  Depending on the job, those things are going to vary.  That’s part of the job. You know that going in. If I work in a nursing home, I am not going to count (except for charting purposes) residents I care for, and how many times each is taken to the bathroom, helped, or responded to and expect that to be taken into account into my paycheck.  Why? Because that is not how the job and payment for the job work. Employment payment doesn’t generally work like that.
Here are some numbers to look at that have wage information:
High School Teacher $43,355
Elementary School Teacher $40,432
Middle School Teacher $42,311
Special Education Teacher, Preschool, Kindergarten, or Elementary School $41,016
Special Education Teacher, Secondary School $43,889
Secondary School Teacher $42,223
Special Education Teacher, Middle School $42,060
Measure  Some High School High school graduate Some college Associate’s degree Bachelor’s degree or higher Bachelor’s degree Master’s degree Professional degree Doctorate degree
Persons, age 25+ w/ earnings $20,321 $26,505 $31,056 $35,009 $49,303 $43,143 $52,390 $82,473 $69,432
Male, age 25+ w/ earnings $24,192 $32,085 $39,150 $42,382 $60,493 $52,265 $67,123 $100,000 $78,324
Female, age 25+ w/ earnings $15,073 $21,117 $25,185 $29,510 $40,483 $36,532 $45,730 $66,055 $54,666
Persons, age 25+, employed full-time $25,039 $31,539 $37,135 $40,588 $56,078 $50,944 $61,273 $100,000 $79,401
Now let’s compare. Let’s use the numbers that we used earlier. We will start with a high school teacher average: $43,355 / 180 days of work = $240.86 a day / 8hrs (standard for most companies) = $30.11 per hr.

Male, age 25+ w/ earnings with a Bachelor’s degree earns $52,265 /245 (let’s give 2 weeks vacation per year and 5 holidays) = $213.33 a day / 8hrs = $26.66 per hr.

It looks to me like the average teacher is making a higher per-hour dollar amount now using those numbers.  But WOW, take a look a the report with figures from the National Education Association report on salaries, which states in part on page 10:

Classroom Teacher Salaries:   The U.S. average public school teacher salary for 2008–09 was $54,319.”

Another article worth checking out come from Michigan, and can be found here.  This table shows:

State Average Teacher Salary
New York $71,470
California $70,458
Alaska $69,864
New Jersey $68,703
Connecticut $68,412
Massachusetts $68,000
Maryland $65,902
Michigan $65,285


While I couldn’t quickly find that chart, I did find the chart on page 110 with 2010 estimated teacher salaries for Wisconsin.  This estimates an average teacher salary of $52,644.  Using our math per hour, that gives us an houlry rate of $39.59.

When working a shorter monthly schedule, there are about 3 months of the year where, if needed, another job, albeit temporary, could be considered.  And, in fact, I know lots of teachers who do more than just teach school, and therefor are paid additional monies.

So, back to the money.  Where’s it going to come from?  “Teacher’s can’t pay their bills.”  The reality is that given the current economic climate, a good many people can’t pay their bills.  We’re all in that same boat.  That’s reality.  Except, most of the rest of us don’t have a summer where we could find extra work to help offset the bills because we’re already working a 40 hour plus work week.

We all want more money. We’re all paying more out-of-pocket for groceries and gas and health care, etc.  Some of us want to sell our houses, but can’t. There are a whole variety of reasons a person may want to sell his house, like to get out of a mortgage that couldn’t afforded without the sub-prime rates; balloon payments (and lowered value in many real estate markets); payments at regular rates that can’t be afforded; to upgrade and get more space, to change locations, or to get away from rotten neighbors. We are all affected by the lousy economy!

It there is anything that we should have learned from the recession, it is this:  You shouldn’t spend more than you make. You HAVE GOT TO plan for the unexpected, which usually means living a little lower and socking some money away for those unexpected things.  We each need to be financially responsible. Counting on someone else (who??) to save us is not going to work. The budget HAS GOT to be balanced. 

So. Who’s gonna pay? 

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